On September 11, 2001, I was living with my boyfriend in Stamford, CT. Notice I write I was living with my boyfriend, and not we were living together. I was woefully “between jobs,” having recently lost mine in the dot-com crash, and feeling very aimless. My boyfriend had given me a place to stay, much like you’d offer your college buddy a place to crash for a few months as he figured out what to do next. Everything I owned was stored at my childhood home in suburban Virginia, right outside of Washington, DC. Life was not terrible, but it wasn’t exactly ideal either. I was desperately hoping to find a new job and to get my life back on track.
On September 11, I woke-up eager to greet the new day. I had an interview in Manhattan for a job that seemed more than promising. I got ready, putting on my black Ann Taylor “interview suit” and practicing my nice-to-meet-you handshake in the mirror. When I was about three minutes away from dashing out the door to the train station, the phone rang. It was my mom.
“Don’t go into the City today,” she cautioned.
“What?!” I replied, “Of course I’m going into the City. I have an interview. For a job, maybe even a really good job.”
My mom continued, “Are you watching the news? Don’t go.”
“Yes, I’m watching the news. It looks like a small plane hit a building, but that’s way downtown. My interview is in midtown, so it doesn’t even matter. I gotta run… I’ll miss my train.”
And with a mom’s prescience she says, “Don’t go. You’ll see. That plane crash was no accident.”
Of course, my Mom was right. Before long, the initial report that a small, private aircraft had gone off-course and crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers was confirmed as being the absolute opposite of an accident – it was in fact the result of one of the most coordinated attacks in history, with nineteen terrorists taking control of four commercial airliners. And by the time I got to the Stamford train station, all trains to and from Grand Central had been cancelled.
And soon, a missed job interview was the last thing anyone, including me, was thinking about.
I took the Amtrak train home to Washington, DC a few days later. It seemed as good a time as any for a visit home, as there certainly weren’t going to be interviews for jobs in New York City anytime soon. As I boarded, I remember thinking that I had never seen so many people wearing suits on the train, and that almost everyone traveling had a garment bag, clearly containing a dress suit. I wondered why, and then heard the man in the seat in front of me quietly get directions to a funeral the next day. The woman across the aisle sobbed, discretely, the entire trip. To this day, the collective grief of my fellow passengers is an indelible memory.
A few weeks later, the job interview was rescheduled. I got the job. I moved to SoHo, subletting an apartment via a chain of a-friend-of-a-friend. When asked why she moved, I was told that the front window once had a direct view of the World Trade Center’s twin towers, and she couldn’t take the window’s new vista now that they were gone. When people came to visit me at my new apartment they agreed it was an eerie sight to look out to where you knew the towers should be, only to find them gone. I of course, had no idea – I hardly knew Manhattan.
Now, it’s ten years later. The then-boyfriend and I are married; we have three kids. We live in suburban New Jersey, in a town proud of its view of the downtown Manhattan skyline. The first thing the neighbors said to us when we moved in last year was “there was an amazing view of the towers from your house. I still can’t get used to them being gone.”
I titled this post “Where I was on 9/11,” but really a better title might have been “Where I wasn’t on 9/11”. I was able to survive this tragic day without injury, whereas so many were much less fortunate. May the memory of those who perished that day be a blessing.